Hepner Hall at SDSU
A former San Diego State University student who was accused — charges were later dismissed — of sexual assault on a student in December of last year plans to take legal action against San Diego State University over the university's handling of the complaint.
Francisco Paiva Sousa filed a claim with California State University's risk management department on April 30. The claim is the first step in a lawsuit. Sousa, a foreign student from Portugal, was arrested on suspicion of forced copulation and false imprisonment of a fellow student on December 9 of last year. Days later, the district attorney's office dismissed the charges.
But the damage, says Sousa, was already done. In the days after the female student made the allegations, San Diego State's Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities had refused to meet with Sousa and declined to see text messages and other evidence, which Sousa says would have proved his innocence.
Most damaging for Sousa was the Community Safety Alert that the university sent via email days after the complaint notifying the students of the assault and naming Sousa as the alleged suspect.
"[San Diego State] could have at least researched the case and investigated the girl’s claims and not rushed to conclusions," said Sousa in a May 8 interview. "There was definitely no need to send a mass email with my name to every student before neither conducting a proper investigation nor giving me the right to defend myself, and that placed my emotional and physical integrity in danger. I would have shown them the text messages and pictures I had that undoubtedly proved that the girl lied, and none of this would have ever happened.”
Last month, Sousa sued the university for failing to meet with him after the complaint had been made, as was reported by the Reader. In that complaint, Sousa demanded access to investigation materials.
Now, Sousa wants the university to pay for the damage it inflicted, and he wants the university to change their policy regarding assault charges in order to prevent other students from being labeled a sexual predator before the charges are investigated.
Sexual assaults on campus have plagued San Diego State University's administration during the past year.
In October of last year, students gathered for campus-wide demonstrations, protesting the university's lackluster response to sexual assaults on campus. The negative press from the protests, says Sousa, prompted some university administrators from the Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities to take a hard line on the accusations against him. Within days, administrators not only denied meetings but also ordered Sousa to stay off campus.
“I believe I was a scapegoat. [San Diego State] was under scrutiny after a series of protests over sexual assaults on campus. They essentially used me as an example. It was just wrong. News reached international levels. My family suffered too much and my grandfather had to go to the hospital in shock. It’s been a horrible experience that no one else should have to go through.
"At the very least [San Diego State] should send another mass email to students saying that charges had been dropped, to clear my name over this and try to minimize the harm they caused me. But they haven’t done that so far and that is why I am filing this lawsuit. At least I hope that my attitude helps the system to be improved and prevent other innocent people to be falsely accused and publicly prejudged, suffering as I did. A girl’s lie and [San Diego State] attitude basically destroyed my life and have severely harmed me emotionally, physically, and financially. I hope justice is made for the hell they made me go through."
Sousa has since left San Diego and is attending college elsewhere. A spokesperson for San Diego State University declined to comment on the case or the policy of sending Community Safety Alerts via email before investigations are conducted.